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How shellac records were produced and manufactured.
This movie is part of the collection: Prelinger Archives
Producer: Ganz (William J.) Co.
Sponsor: RCA Victor Corporation
Audio/Visual: Sd, B&W
Keywords: Media: Phonograph; Music
Creative Commons license: Public Domain
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Sterling van Toad -
Subject: Mystery conductor
A fascinating document. I believe the conductor shown in the Blue Danube recording session was Charles O'Connell, who was Victor's Classical Recording Director at the time. O'connell wrote a delightfully candid book, "The Other Side of the Record," which describes his work with the artists who recorded for Victor in the 1930s and 1940s.
Subject: progress never sleeps
A slow process back then unlike today. Makes one appreciate one of the old school records when we see them now. Very interesting and educational film
Subject: Other ingredients beside Shellac?
Excellent documentary! But I would really love to know what were the other 18 or so ingredients beside Shellac if anyone knows?
Subject: making records
People are always asking me what are records made of. I'm glad to say that this video will help me to give out correct information instead of having to spend so much time speculating.
Also interesting to see how master and mother discs were made. However when the narrator started to talk about mixing the shellac and resin - well, I was disapointed not to find out about the other 18 ingredients!
Subject: Pressings-an added note
The phonograph at the end of this film is one of those "Magic Eye" units that plays both sides of the record-having two tonearms..one above the other. A marvel to read about and to see.
Yes, it's amazing of no catalog numbering being shown on the pressings.
It is great to see how things used to be made, and this film does an excellent job. And it gives a great view of the ledgendary Victor vault (long since decimated) and the pressing plant in Camden (long since demolished).
Unfortunately, Nat Shilkret does not have any part in this movie. He was still on the RCA Victor payroll at this time, but he is not the conductor of the recording session pictured here. And neither is this movie listed in the appendix of his autobiography (Nat Shilkret: Sixty Years In The Music Business) as one of his many soundtracks.
If you look closely, there is no microphone in the shot of the orchestra. The cinematographer did take some license here.
Subject: "Command Performance" is excellent
An outstanding RCA Victor 1942 documentary on how shellac records were made. Well written narration, excellent visualization. Enjoyed hearing Milton Cross.
Subject: That's What I Always Call It, A Record Made
According to this film, "Command Performance" was a short film about how 78 RPM records are made. The song for the film was Joahnn Strauss immortal "The Blue Danube". I have the song on a record. That was from 1942. There were no tape recorders back then since the engineer was mixing the sound over a cutting head. In the 50's, a tape recorder was added with the cutting head as usual after the master recording was made. Back in 1942, there were no CD's back then. I have a CD burner where I did it the easy way to make CD's after I finalizing the disc. Before CD's there were LP's and 45's. What a rare gem.
Subject: RCA Making of a record
I just downloaded MPEG2 on RCA making of records.I used WMP to play it back.It played perfectly,and I realy didn't know how involed a process it was to press a record.Thank you for informing me.
Great clip!!!! Here is some info on the conductor of the Victor Salon Orch. who were performing the piece:
Nathaniel 'Nat' Shilkret (1889-1982) was a multi-talented instrumentalist and arranger who came up through the ranks of the Sousa, Pryor, and Goldman bands. In 1919 he was named director of light music at the Victor Talking Machine Company, remaining in this job until 1935. Shilkret was responsible for booking hundreds of recording sessions involving various bands, and for recording material under his own direction that Victor's contract artists didn't care to handle: mainly waltzes, operetta melodies, and sentimental salon selections. Nat Shilkret had considerable clout at Victor, and brought it to bear on a series of Symphonic Jazz recordings made in the period 1928-1932.
Christine Hennig -
Subject: Back When the Groove in Music Was Literal
This 1942 film, made by RCA Victor, shows us how 78 rpm records were made. ItÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂs actually a pretty fascinating process, involving cutting an original wax disc, electroplating it into a metal master disc, making a stronger mother disc from the master, and making stamping discs from those. Mixing the shellac, stamping the records, and packing and shipping is also covered. This is one of the more interesting factory tour films out there, and since it covers an outdated technology, it has quite a bit of historical value as well.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
8H Haggis -
Subject: THAT'S why they all sound so bad!
This promotional film is an interesting slice of history. Made in 1942, it seems to show the inroad of female labor, replacing men, for many of the assembly line workers -- doing hard physical jobs -- are women. I was rather appalled at the slapdash and clumsy, crude, and rough way the RCA Victor technicians handled the waxes and metal matrices. Truly, a record buff will NEVER treat even old 78 rpm shellac records in this careless a fasion. Yet I must admit that it reminded me of a trip to the Santa Barbara, California pressing plant of Columbia Records in 1976: the workers acted as if delicate phonograph records were just adobe brick for making roads!
The film itself is very pretentious and somewhat dull, and could have been edited by the original producer to about 7 minutes without losing any detail. The whole thing smacks of the publicity machine that was Radio Corporation of Ameria (the Microsoft of its time) and their over-the-top hyperbole and rhetoric. I lost track of how many times narrator Milton Cross intoned about the "perfect tone" and "fidelity" of the Victor records, spoken as some worker was slashing, pounding, banging, or wiping off a delicate metal platter. And as a long-time collector of 78s, I can testify that 1942 to about 1947 were indeed the very *worst* years of the industry, as far as quality control was concerned. War-time limitations of material caused Victor and every other company to produce their records with a poorer, noisier melange of shellac and other filler materials: the records of that time period were crackly, mushy, and distorted (while the Victor records of the mid-thirties were the best and cleanest 78 disks ever produced in history: their vaunted "Z" pressings are highly praised by professional record restorers.)
I watched the highly compressed mp4 version of this film and was bothered by a hideous audio tone around 6 kHz that was hard to ignore: is this in the original data? Surely not! It would be an even bigger joke if RCA Victor, praising their own audio products, added a spurious and ear-piercing high frequency tone to the soundtrack!
The low resolution of the video, as seen on my Quick Time player, made it impossible for me to clearly read the label of the record that was shown in production. Nor could I identify the face of the musical conductor, who leads a horrible, syrupy, and clumsy performance of Strauss's "Blue Danube" (which is repeatedly interminably throughout the film, sounding worse each time.) It looked as though the conductor was a Stokowski-wannabe, but the players read through the music in a perfunctory, crude manner that the great Leopold would never have tolerated...
Despite my snotty remarks, the entire things was loads of fun for me, an old "high school projectionist" in my youth, and recalled the innumerable promotional films that I ran for my fellow students, nearly fifty years ago.
8H Haggis - retired audio engineer
Subject: Oh those wonderful records
Do you see how each record is individually made and pressed? There is such a human involvement, that gives it that warm cozy touch to it. I personally love 78s and you can really get quite depth from them. It would though be neat to see how accoustic records were made before they went to electric recording in the late 20s. I expect some of the processes didn't change. A great look into the past!
Subject: Very cool, and the Analogue vs. Digital debate
Considering that you can buy devices for a few thousand dollars that can cut records from just about anything, the long and involved process of making them 60 years ago is quite interesting, particularly to someone who double majors in History and Music.
And yes, I agree that the purest form of analogue is more accurate than anything digital can produce. But the only form of analogue that pure is straight from the sound to your ear, with no equipment in between at all. What some people hear as "Warmth" in analogue tapes is actually controlled distortion and EQ that the tape inherently adds to the sound. Vinyl is more accurate, but digital is getting good enough now (what with 32-bit recordings at 96khz or more) that the approximation of the sound is nearly indistinguishable from the sound itself.
And with that statement, I declare myself open to vicious flaming.
Radio XRP -
Living right across the river from Camden, N.J, in Philadelphia, I can see the old RCA Building. I knew at one time they made records there but, had no idea how it was done. Who knew it took that long of a process to make records back then? This film really captivated me since I am music collector. We have it easy today, having the computer. Check this film out! Re:Pressings...I Agree that the analog recording does, in most cases, sound better.
Subject: So, THAT'S how it's done!
Interesting and fascinating short film on how records are made. If you are a music junkie and or a chemical processes junkie, this movie is for you.
FLo Kaufmann -
Subject: the MUST seen for all vinyl-holics
normally kept as a secret by most pressing plants, here you see absolutely anything you should know about manufacturing records. there is nearly no information available about this topic so this footage closes a huge gap. we all can see producing vinyl has nothing to do with voodoo...so lets go home and start pressing records at home. thanks for this great 18 minutes crash course.
Subject: And you thought Compact Discs were hi-tech?
An absolutely AMAZING account of how records used to be made. From the beginning,where the music is recorded onto wax discs in order to make the metal plated master discs, to the mixture of the ingredients necessary to make the consumer product, to the actual production of the records. After viewing this, you will see how difficult it was to make a record that only held a precious few minutes of music, and why even today, there are many "music purists" that still swear hands-down that phonograph records are superior to the Compact Discs of today.